Soto Windmaster + 4Flex Stove Review

SotoWindMaster IMG_0774 copy

Base stats:

– BTU:  11K
– Weight:  2.3 oz
Stove comparison chart

Truly the best of the best of compact stand-alone LPG gas canister stoves.  It has become my goto.

While it’s too bad that it doesn’t fit in a cup along with a gas canister and utensil, which would be ideal, this gas canister based unit has one incredible advantage in addition to the wind resistance, and two small negatives.

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First, a negative. When screwing this stove onto a gas canister, or unscrewing it, there is a slight leak, which wastes fuel. In a situation where every bit of fuel counts, that is not ideal. The smaller Soto Compact Folding Stove is better at this and does not leak.

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Second negative. The bag that it comes in is super flimsy (left). Since this unit needs to be separate from the cup, I wish it had a more structured, durable, and protective case. Here again, the smaller Soto Compact Folding Stove wins (right), as it has a really great structured canvas case, which is a bit of a waste since the big advantage of the compact is that it’s small enough to fit in a cup with a canister. This Windmaster needs a structured case.

Third is the positive and oh what a positive it is. Of all the gas canister stoves I have (jetboils, gigapower, Soto Compact), and even including some of my liquid fuel stoves, this Windmaster has the best simmer control. And by “Best” I mean UNREAL levels of simmer throttling. Wow….just….wow.

If I were heading out on an extended trip and my primary was a gas canister stove and a few gas canisters, and I knew I wanted to do some cooking, this would, without a doubt, be the stove I would bring.

Combine this stove with the Optimus Terra Weekend HE .95L Pot and you have a cooking set that is absolutely rock solid for just about all the basic solo backpacker’s cooking needs. It would serve just as well.  In fact, I’ve tested the HE Weekender with just about every compact stove, including Soto, Snow Peak, MSR, and others, and only when paired with the Windmaster, can the HE Weekender boil 25 oz of water in 2:20.  Given that the Soto Compact, Snow Peak GigaPower and LiteMax all took over 5 minutes, that 2:20 number is unreal.

In fact, quite simply, this is the only compact stove that can compete with stove systems like the MSR Reactor and JetBoil PCS/Zip/Sol.

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The Windmaster also works with the Optimus Windshield, but only when using the smaller 3 point stand.  The 4 point stand doesn’t fit.

Incidentally, I also purchased the optional 4 bar pot support for the Windmaster, and this makes larger pots very stable.
NOTE HERE: For larger pots, the Windmaster does cause a hot spot, since all the flame is directed straight upwards. If you have a good wind screen or heat reflector, the Soto Compact Folding stove is a better fit because it directs the flame outwards instead of straight up, which spreads heat a little. A good example would be the Optimus Terra HE 3 Pot Cook Set (I don’t own that set, so just guessing, of course).

Either way, if you’re looking for a compact gas canister stove, and plan on doing cooking in the field with a requirement for decent simmer control, you won’t find better for 3 season backpacking.

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When they say “wind”master, they’re not kidding.

This may not be the smallest pressurized gas canister based stove out there, but it is shockingly effective.

If you read the marketing material, the design of the flame expulsion point is the key. Most others have a convex cone or dome shape, so wind can put out the flame. The Windmaster has a tiny wall going all around the edge, but also the wide diameter flame expulsion surface area is concave, making it harder for wind to blow the flame out.

That flame expulsion area is really a wide diameter, so when the flame is going full blast, it’s pretty potent.

But the Windmaster has another advantage: the flame throttling thing (no idea what it’s called) doesn’t go from zero to full blast in half a turn, it actually is much more fine tuned than that, requiring several turns to go from zero to full blast. That’s a good thing, because it gives much more control over the flame strength than I thought was possible with a unit this small.

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It’s small enough to fit into a GSI Halulite mug, but you can’t fit a gas canister in there as well. It’s one or the other. On the plus side, you could have this, a silicone pot holder, and maybe a small or folding utensil in the mug.

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And then….

Some time in mid 2014, I discovered the Optimus Windshield.  And this changed everything.

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With the discovery of the Optimus Windshield, all of a sudden, the Soto Windmaster became a viable option, so my new setup is now

  1. Almost as efficient as a JetBoil, under 3 minutes to boil water
  2. Not quite as light, but about the same compactness
  3. light cooking duty options are much better
    1. Pan frying spam works great
    2. Simple stews work great
  4. Simmer control is phenomenal thanks to the Soto Windmaster

Before this setup, I struggled for a long time to really figure out a perfect setup for the Optimus HE Weekend, and also struggled for the best setup for the Soto Windmaster, both amazing pieces of tech in their own right, but never quite able to really shine in their respective advantages.  While I tried a bunch of different combinations, and they all worked well to some degree or another, there was always something that just didn’t feel quite right.  The Optimus Windshield changed all that and was the bridge that brought these two together and made this setup perfect.

NOTE:  Many may wonder why I don’t pair the Optimus HE Weekend with the Optimus Crux.  I have an Optimus Crux, but I don’t like it, and the reason is simple:  At 10K BTU, it is actually less BTU than the Winemaster, and yet it burns through LPG gas canister really fast, and simmer control doesn’t work well.  I used the Optimus Crux it on one camping trip, and will never use it again.  It’s just too inefficient and wasteful.

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All in all, for ultralight camping, this is a definite plus, and from a control and flexibility perspective, it gets an automatic 4 stars in my book.

Excerpt from Gear Junkie (author: shaun):
http://snowboardmountaineer.com/gear-review-jetboil-and-other-canister-gas-explained/

Having some trial and error experience with Jetboil, I can point out a few things about the fuel, and a few things that have worked for me. First, NOT all canister fuel is created equal. Here are a few for comparison, each with the relative temp values of each fuel – canister fuels are generally a mixture, and they are different ratios.

– Brunton/Kovea: 0% n-butane, 70% isobutane, 30% propane
– Coleman: 60% n-butane, 0% isobutane, 40% propane
– Primus: 70% n-butane, 10% isobutane, 20% propane
– Peak1: 70% n-butane, 0% isobutane, 30% propane
– MSR IsoPro: 0% n-butane, 80% isobutane, 20% propane
– JetPower: 0% n-butane, 80% isobutane, 20% propane
– Snow Peak: 0% n-butane, 65% isobutane, 35% propane

This is important since all fuels vaporize at different temps. Without some fuel left in the canister that is vaporized – it will leave no pressure to feed fuel to the stove. n-Butane vaporizes at 31°F. Isobutane vaporizes at 11°F. Propane vaporizes at -43°F. Essentially what that means is that n-Butane will not vaporize below 31°F, while the other mixtures do and leave useless liquid n-butane in the canister. At 11°F the same phenomenon happens with Isobutane.

So.. A low (or no) n-Butane mixture, and higher propane mixture are more suitable for colder temps.

End Excerpt.

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